Edit 1/4/2016: In hindsight, I feel like I overhyped Princess Weiyoung with this review post. After completing (and loving!) Nirvana in Fire subsequently after this one, I thought the latter was much, much better. So if you’d like to, here’s my post on Nirvana in Fire. I highly suggest watching NiF instead if you haven’t already. It’s also set during the Northern and Southern dynasties and has a revenge plot (like Princess Weiyoung), but the storyline, acting, and execution is more phenomenal!
Alright, everyone, brace yourselves for an extremely long, intense fangirl session. (You’ve been warned.)
Many of you know I’ve been on a hiatus because of school. But fall finals hasn’t been the only thing keeping me occupied. I’m not sure why this always happens… but near the end of the semester (when it’s pretty much a dark time for students), for some stupid reason, I think it’s okay to start watching a drama. Even crazier and worse is that the one I choose tends to become one that I totally obsess over. Last year it was It’s Okay, That’s Love, and this time (no surprise really if you’ve read my latest post or have talked to me outside Xingsings) Princess Weiyoung.
Princess Weiyoung is essentially another revenge plot that takes place during the Northern and Southern dynasties (so roughly sometime between 400 to 600) adapted from a Chinese novel called The Poisonous Daughter by Qin Jian*. The story begins with a general from the Chiyun clan falsely accusing and murdering the Northern Liang’s royal family, turning the young, care free Liang princess, Feng Xin’er, into a girl without a family and identity. Then perhaps by fate, Xin’Er meets and befriends Li Weiyoung, the illegitimate daughter of a general that works for the Northern Wei. Weiyoung dies while protecting Xin’Er, and the latter assumes Weiyoung’s identity and vows to avenge her friend’s death as well as her late family.
*I have not read the original novel because, to my knowledge, it hasn’t been translated into English yet.
I’ve mentioned before in my Summing It Up posts (aka the monthly recap and favorites posts on this blog) that my all time favorite genre to indulge in is historical/period/wuxia mainly because…
A) I grew up watching them (Does Journey to the West, My Fair Princess, and Legend of the Condor Heroes sound familiar to fellow Asians or those that watch Asian dramas? Got to love what the pugilistic world offers.)
B) I delude myself by believing that I’m actually “learning” and not mindlessly watching a show
C) It always includes my preferred type of romance. I love how sweet and “innocent” the storylines are. (It’s not very explicit or vulgar at all. Sex is often insinuated, but the consummation scenes are relatively tame.)
D) Kind of embarrassing, but I feel like I’m connecting with my inner Asian roots. The fact that most aren’t even Vietnamese or take place in Vietnam are irrelevant and besides the point, haha.
E) And, especially if I watch them with Vietnamese dubs instead of English subtitles, I really do acquire a lot of antiquated and royal jargon I wouldn’t have known otherwise. (Because my dad does not converse with me like a king from the past, lol.) Enrichment in one’s vocabulary is always a bonus.
So the fact that Princess Weiyoung was my most highly anticipated drama of the year (I’ve literally been waiting for this since 2015 when I first heard it was in the makings) and that it just so happened to fall under my most preferred genres means it had a high probability of becoming one of my all time favorite dramas (or falling completely flat). And I have to say it did not disappoint in the slightest.
So with the remainder of this post I’ll breakdown my thoughts on Princess Weiyoung as a whole now that I’ve finished watching all 54 episodes (yes, 54!). (Also, I know a period dramas are long but I’ve gotten used to them since the idea of the story normally covers a 20+ year span of events. Just an FYI.) Oh and there will be minor spoilers but nothing that would ruin a viewer’s watching experience, I think.
What I liked:
The elegance behind the period costumes is so breathtaking. I mean, don’t even get me started on the stunning wedding gowns:
Also, kudos to the directors and producers for finally giving Tang Yan nice hair. She’s so attractive but she hasn’t had the best roles that have showcased her beauty. She always gets the most bizarre updos and cuts. I was thrilled that she finally had a normal and quite pretty hairstyle for the majority of this production. I can’t say the same of Vanness Wu’s tragic hair in this though. /cringes/
Speaking of Vanness, the defeat of the antagonists begins relatively early on. Rarely does this happen in most historical dramas since these productions tend to stretch over 50 episodes. Redemption and revenge often takes place at the earliest halfway through the drama (meaning around the 25th episode mark), which is an excruciatingly long and frustrating wait for viewers. Princess Weiyoung moving this fast was refreshing and a great relief. In fact, overall, the entire storyline is quickly paced (again, for a historical drama that is). I found that not much of the plot is dragged out. Actually, when the entire revenge plot was introduced, it hit the ground running within the first few episodes.
I love me some well done fight/action scenes, and there were plenty of those in this. Growing up, my inner circle of friends all took martial arts. And because I never had any lessons myself, I’ve felt a bit regretful. I guess the way I compensate for this void is with watching such badass scenes, lol.
What I loved:
However, all that I’ve shared so far has only been the start. There was so much more that I adored and gushed over.
Like most dramas, a lot is romanticized to be dramatic, but it can’t be denied that there are a number of important motif and values shared in Princess Weiyoung. I love that even though this drama comprised of subplots like the romances and backgrounds of the side characters, the revenge and main plot never took the backseat. Sometimes these long dramas can lose sight of the focus and digress, but thankfully this one does not.
There’s also a great emphasis on friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice. And these values were continually showcased in the best of ways and most beautiful scenes. One of my favorite parts of this show was during Weiyoung’s continual sacrifice for the Li family and her friends (when she was punished for bringing “negativity” to the household, when she saved Chang Ru, etc). When the Liang’s legacy was long lost after her biological family’s demise, Weiyoung adopted the real Weiyoung’s family as her own and her devotion towards the latter family spoke via her honorable actions.
The heroine is strong and beautiful in a multifaceted way. Weiyoung, previously known as Xin’Er, is such an empowering figure; she’s so dignified, benevolent, articulate, and incredibly strong (physically and intellectually). Seriously, for me, she’s one of the more consistently written characters that have shown up in an Asian drama. She did little to annoy me and a lot of her actions (even though I didn’t always condone them) are justified and valid. I seriously have a huge woman crush on Tang Yan’s character in Princess Weiyoung, haha.
And, of course, being the ardent hopeless romantic that I am… I can’t not talk about the romance! The romantic dialogue is so, so swoonworthy that I really just can’t. Here are a few quotable moments:
I treasure my time with you.
(I will) never forget our happy memories together.
If I live, I will always return to you.
If I die, I will die missing you.
I also really like that no time is wasted when Touba Jun (TBJ from now on) discovers Weiyoung (WY) is the late Liang princess.
Whatever your identity or status, you are just you. You are the person I think of all the time.
The absolute faith he has in her character is so awe-inspiring and romantic. Along with affection, he displays so much respect for WY time and time again. More often than not, in these types of films, I’ve noticed that a lot of the male figures restrict the female leads’ independence. I can see why this happens because of the historical time period and context, but I still hate it nonetheless. I’m so glad such nonsense didn’t exist in TBJ and WY’s relationship. I also admire that TBJ has so much trust in WY but also in their relationship. The couple does not get together until well into the later episodes, and I’m glad TBJ never fell into any possible love triangle traps along the way. And aside from being the best suitor for WY, TBJ also represents an ideal hero because he’s someone that is not throne obsessed even though he’s eligible, possesses a kind, compassionate heart, and is still filial towards his mother despite his support for the woman in his life. (Because why should one choose between their mother and significant other? I really dislike arcs such as this one.) Side note, but I also approve of how forward this drama is with the way it portrays gender equality (with TBJ and WY’s relationship) despite being set 1500+ years ago.
Not only do the leads shine, but so do the side characters. WY’s “good squad” comprised such a rootable, dependable cast (Jun Tao, Li Min De, Princess Tuoba Di, Grandmother Li, and Bai Zhi). And like in real life, not all of humanity is good. Of course the flawed, troubled, and wicked ones were epitomized. (However, I did think that the actress that played Chang Le to be considerably weak at the art, because the continuous widening of the eyes does not convey frustration or rage in my book. However, whatever, the script and actions she had to perform made me overlook this.) I also really liked that some of the villains died with some shred of repentance while others remained vile to the end.
And with lots of characters, there’s bound to be scandalous situations. There was some unrequited romances stirring but, thankfully, they ended one-sided. So there were no ridiculous love triangle dynamics.
The best part about most historical dramas are the emotional and impactful endings. Asian dramas are famous for having the worst conclusions in the universe (no exaggeration-it’s not only me, many drama addicts will probably nod in agreement to this), but thankfully many times than not the ending to period dramas are quite satisfying (which is great given the amount of time viewers invest in these lengthy sagas) even if they are melancholy or tragic. Princess Weiyoung‘s final episode did not let me down and was the best conclusion it could offer to viewers. I may have shed more than a few tears…
However, like with It’s Okay, That’s Love, this drama wasn’t completely perfect. Like most other wuxia entertainment (regardless of when the production period took place) the CGI is always cringeworthy with the people flying and fake animals. (LOL. The butterfly and cliff scenes though. Those that have watched this know exactly what I’m toe-curling to.) Also, things that cannot be avoided with palace politics are the catfights and plotting between the royals. But these were shortcomings that, prior to watching, I had already anticipated would occur.
Instead, the problematic aspects that I wasn’t expecting and couldn’t necessarily overlook were the plot holes. Most of the time, the storyline was good with retracing and substantiating the strategic moves. But certain elements, for example, like the two face changing moments just didn’t cut it for me. Impersonating someone with a mask is a bit of a stretch since Princess Weiyoung leans more historical fiction than true wuxia anyway. It also felt too out of place and unbelievable. There are also other jarring plot holes that I won’t go into detail because of spoilers. Sigh.
Also, I have to confess that I was the tiniest bit vexed with how repetitive it got when Weiyoung was continuously incriminated for matters she obviously wasn’t a part of. It happened so much and was instigated by pretty much the same crowd each time. Because of this unnecessary repetition, I also found that the last 15 episodes faltered with the storytelling at some points.
Lastly, like previously mentioned, I did find that the newer actor(esse)s that starred in this weren’t that convincing in some encounters. Chang Le, Weiyoung’s rival, is really bad at creating different expressions. I felt like she had the same widening eyes, “doe” look. She was supposed to portray an evil, pitiable countenance, but I only found her expressions to look fearful, lol.
Although, you know what? Despite all the tropes displayed and criticisms I had, I can’t deny that Princess Weiyoung was extremely entertaining for me. Plus it still brings forth other speculative and thought provoking matters to the table beyond the engaging storyline. Also, it keeps viewers on their toes and second guessing who the traitors are and when the next betrayal will ensue. These unpredictable twists (and cast, costumes, chemistry, etc) makes this drama continue to be interesting and watchable.
In fact, on top of it all, you know it’s extremely serious if I’m writing a full drama/movie review for Princess Weiyoung seeing I rarely do this on here. Also, you may not believe this but at some point I even stooped so low that I even subjected myself to watching this drama without English subtitles (and resorting to Princess Weiyoung drama recaps) when the raws were released because I was that addicted. The drama only finished airing recently, and I ended up finishing it with Vietnamese subtitles (because they were available unlike the English), which is also saying a lot since my reading skills in Vietnamese are pretty poor. Also, I may or may not be currently rewatching this one (with my dad). 😄
Yeah, so being addicted to something this lengthy and time consuming was not the smartest choice considering I’ve been busy with academic obligations. However, the amazing part of this all is that the time I spent procrastinating with this drama was well worth it because Princess Weiyoung proved to be very compelling. It brought me so much joy and heartache. From beginning to end, I thoroughly enjoyed this and recommend it-not for first time Asian drama watchers (because of the great commitment of 54 episodes) but to those that love Chinese historical dramas as much as I do.
To those viewers currently nursing your hearts after the finale: How do you guys feel about Tang Yan and Luo Jin’s recent announcement? I’m still pinching myself that Tang Yan and Luo Jin are dating in real life! Happy sigh. Oh and feel free to hit me up if you watched or are watching this! Because I know there’s so much to gush about. 😉
And in other news, six exams are down and there are only three more exams to go! Thanks to everyone that wished me luck these past few weeks. There’s really not much longer until I’m on winter break! I look forward to replying to comments and chatting with you guys very soon. 🙂 As always, thanks for putting up with me and tuning in (even if it may not be the whole post), everyone. 😄
Lastly, in case any one is looking for more Asian drama/film recommendations, I have provided a huge (and insane!) compilation of titles here. I created this in my spare time a few weeks ago. It’s a master list of (almost) all the dramas I’ve ever watched, coupled with ratings.